Great article, Gregg. I particularly like your insight about “moving target”, a reminder about the flow of time. Does the current crop of students have the right to revise a system that will apply to future students?
There are already procedural precedents that require certain issues to be confirmed by at least one successive materialization of the study body — PAW has noted that the trustees have such a condition before considering a divestment.
Perhaps the checks and balances that we see as a transient House vs a durable Senate are a useful analogy here. The composition of this year’s student body should have its will confirmed by a formal recognition of persistence over time, even if it is simply a re-vote by next year’s students.
The second of the four proposals seems the most problematic, hinting of a loophole. You refer to faculty testimony that a student did not violate “class instructions” while Billington’s article in the Feb 7 PAW refers to “class policy”. So, if a professor testifies that students are allowed to use cell phones to surf the web in class, that would negate a violation rooted in accessing online sources during an exam? Or if the exam itself permitted consulting online sources, how would a witness know whether someone using a phone was or was not texting for outside help?
I agree with your assessment that turning others in is probably the feature of the Honor Code that is most vulnerable. Even in this era when tattling has become popular, many people feel that a decision to report someone who might be a violator should not be influenced by serious personal consequences if one fails to act.
Such “moral pressure” isn’t the only difficult aspect of this feature. The Honor Code is also vulnerable due to the possibility of a chain reaction: are witnesses to the failure of a witness to report a violation themselves subject to disciplinary action if they stay silent?